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Sports

    Kobe Bryant was “an outstanding and true Olympic champion,” IOC President Thomas Bach said Monday. The basketball great, who was killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday, helped the United States win Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2012 London Games. Bryant also worked with the Olympic hosting bid for Los Angeles, the city where he won five NBA titles with the Lakers. When Los Angeles hosts the 2028 Olympics, men’s basketball will be played at the Staples Center, where Bryant played with the Lakers. “He embraced the power of sport to change people’s lives,” Bach said in a statement published by the International Olympic Committee. “After retiring from the game he loved so much, he continued to support the Olympic Movement and was an inspiration for the Olympic Games LA 2028.” Bryant narrated the final filmed segment of the L.A. bid team’s presentation in July 2017. He was a member of the bid's board of directors. “There are so many different cultures represented here, so many different ethnicities represented here,” he said of Los Angeles in the video. “It’s an opportunity to learn no matter where you look.” The 41-year-old Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among nine people who died in the crash in Calabasas in foggy weather conditions Sunday morning. “We will all miss his energy and his humble nature,' Bach said. 'Our thoughts are with his family and friends and all the other victims.” International basketball federation secretary general Andreas Zagklis described Bryant as a “sun in the basketball universe, shining on and off the court.” ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • In the country where he grew up, Kobe Bryant will be mourned for an entire week. The Italian basketball federation said Monday it has ordered a minute's silence to be observed for all games “in every category for the entire week.” “It’s a small but heartfelt and deserved gesture to honor the life and memory of Kobe Bryant, an absolute champion who always had Italy in his heart,” the federation said. “Kobe was and will always be linked to our country.” Bryant lived in Italy between the ages of 6 and 13 while his father, Joe Bryant, played for several teams in the country. He returned to Pennsylvania for high school. Kobe Bryant spoke fluent Italian and often said it would be a “dream” to play in the country. That dream almost came true when Bryant nearly joined Virtus Bologna in 2011 during an NBA lockout, only for the deal to fall apart. “We’ve lost a friend,” read a front-page headline in the Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s leading sports newspaper. Bryant, an 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died Sunday with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California. He was 41. “All of the NBA players are important, because they’re legends, but he’s particularly important to us because he knew Italy so well, having lived in several cities here,” Italian federation president Giovanni Petrucci told The Associated Press late Sunday night. “He had a lot of Italian qualities,' Petrucci added. “He spoke Italian very well. He even knew the local slang.' Pistoia, one of the teams that Joe Bryant played for, tweeted a message with a picture of Kobe Bryant during a recent trip to the Tuscan town. “We saw him play at the PalaCarrara during halftime of his father Joe’s games,” Pistoia said. “He had a strong bond with the city of Pistoia and it was just a few years ago that he came to pay us a visit. May the earth rest lightly on you #Kobe.” Italian coach Ettore Messina worked with Bryant as an assistant for the Lakers. “He was a supernatural,” Messina told the AP late Sunday while traveling with his current club, Olimpia Milano. “To hear him speak and joke in our language and to remember when his father played here and he was a kid drew a lot of people to the NBA,” Messina said. “He was also always very attentive to help Italian kids arriving in the NBA and to help them enter such a tough and competitive world. He also did that with me when I arrived at the Lakers and I’m still very grateful to him for that. It’s very sad that his family has been devastated like this.” ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf
  • Margaret Court was present but didn't address the crowd at a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of her calendar-year Grand Slam in 1970, a tricky event for Australian Open organizers trying to balance recognition of the achievement with their responsibility to promote inclusion in sports. Court's criticism of homosexuality has been condemned by current and former players, and prompted some to call for her name to be removed from one of the Australian Open's main arenas. Martina Navratilova, who won 18 major titles, has been a vocal critic of Court's anti-gay comments. 'It's just unfortunate because I think what Margaret Court doesn't realize is how many people she hurts with her rhetoric,' Navratilova said Monday, before the anniversary ceremony. “She can believe whatever she wants but she's actually hurting people and that's not OK.” The 77-year-old Court received a trophy from Rod Laver, who last year celebrated the 50th anniversary of his second Grand Slam, before the night match Monday between Nick Kyrgios and top-ranked Rafael Nadal. A video tribute was also played on the big screens. Some of the crowd was still filing into Rod Laver Arena when the brief ceremony was completed, a couple of minutes before the night session was due to begin. Court won an all-time record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, including 13 before the Open era. Serena Williams has 23, but hasn't added to her collection since winning the 2017 Australian title. Court has been a minister at a Pentecostal church in Perth, Western Australia, since 1990s and made many of her controversial comments in that role. John McEnroe criticized Australian Open organizers for going ahead with the ceremony, describing the former player in a video for Eurosprot as Tennis Australia's “crazy aunt.” “There’s only one thing longer than a list of Margaret Court’s tennis achievements — it’s her list of offensive and homophobic statements,' McEnroe said in the video. “You can’t separate the person from her achievements.” Jelena Dokic, who had a career-high No. 4 ranking and reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2000, said it was challenging for Australian Open organizers to balance the sporting achievement from the individual. “It’s hard to go past her winning 24 Grand Slams, as an athlete, which is incredible,' Dokic told The Associated Press. '(But) I absolutely do not agree or support anything (Court) has said. It’s extremely discriminatory and very hurtful. It’s very hard to go past. “Everyone has extended the olive branch to (Court), the rest is up to her,” Dokic added. “Sport is a place where we should give everyone a chance, it’s about everyone coming together — it’s all about inclusion and giving everyone a chance.” Mats Wilander, who won three of his seven Grand Slam singles titles in Australia, made an oblique reference to Court's attitudes. “I played on Margaret Court today, and I think it’s too slow,” he said. Asked to explain the connection, he reiterated: “What I’m saying is, the court is too slow. That court needs to keep up with the other courts!” ___ G'BYE BRYANS Bob and Mike Bryan lost a third-round doubles match at the Australian Open, making it the last appearance at Melbourne Park for the American twins who have combined to win six of their 16 doubles majors at the season's first Grand Slam tournament. They lost to fourth-seeded Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 6-3, 6-4 on Monday on Melbourne Arena. The Bryan brothers first played in Australia in 2000, reached their first Australian Open doubles final in 2004, and won the title for the first time two years later. In a span of dominance, they reached five consecutive Australian finals — winning four. The 41-year-old Bryans announced last year that 2020 would be their last season on tour, so Melbourne is the start of a long farewell. Bob brought the family along for the ride. He told the crowd after the match that he and Mike played a final in Melbourne in 2012 — the one they lost in the five-year streak — on the due date for his daughter, Micaela. His little girl, who was born not long after, on Jan. 31, 2012, was standing beside the court for the speech. So he beckoned her on court for a group hug with her dad and her uncle Mike, and they all said goodbye. ___ HUMBLE BRAG Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova's fourth-round win over Angelique Kerber guaranteed there would be a first-time Australian Open champion this year. The 28-year-old Russian won a junior title in Australia 12 years ago, beating Caroline Wozniacki for that title, but has never been past the quarterfinals since graduating to the main draw in 2009. Wozniacki won her first and only major title in Australia in 2018, and she retired from the tour last week after a third-round loss at Melbourne Park. That has sharpened Pavlyuchenkova's focus on her career, and she's concentrating on being more patient and taking her opportunities. She was asked if she was in career-best form after a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over Kerber, who has won three majors, including the 2016 Australian title. “Let me be humble here. I'm not going to say, ‘I'm not playing my best tennis.' Not at all,' Pavlyuchenkova said. “I feel like I play good, of course. But I still feel like I can improve a lot of things. It gives me more confidence or belief that there is still room for improvement.' She will next play two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza, who beat ninth-seeded Kiki Bertens 6-3, 6-3. Kerber was the last former Australian titlist left in the draw after Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Wozniacki were knocked out in the third round. ___ More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Nick Kyrgios wore a Lakers No. 8 jersey to honor Kobe Bryant ahead of a fourth-round match against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, paying his respects without needing to say a word. The 15-year-old Coco Gauff had Bryant's numbers 8 and 24, along with the inscription 'Mamba Mentality,' on her shoes in a doubles match at Melbourne Park. Bryant's sudden death in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday along with eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, has shocked and upset fans and athletes around the world. Kyrgios, a big NBA fan who often wears basketball jerseys while practicing, wore a Bryant jersey from the locker room, through the corridor of champions, and into the warm-up on Rod Laver Arena on Monday. He took it off before play began against top-ranked Nadal. Fans in the crowd wore Bryant jerseys with the numbers 8 or 24. Australian Open organizers also played a short video tribute to Bryant ahead of the match, one of the most anticipated encounters in the two-week, season-opening major. Darren Cahill, who coaches two-time major winner Simona Halep and works as television analyst for ESPN, said he 'felt sick' when he woke up to news of Bryant's death. “Certainly I looked up to what he used to do as an athlete, as a professional, an incredible basketball player,' Cahill said. 'And especially his daughter passing away, as well. I couldn't think of anything worse. My two kids are here. They are 18 and 15. I could not get my head around that.' Former Australian player and TV commentator Rennae Stubbs said she knew Bryant was a big tennis fan. “We saw Kobe a lot at the U.S. Open”— he was there a lot last year,' Stubbs said. “He was on the ESPN set many times. He commentated half of Coco Gauff's match with our team. We saw him around. I saw him talking to Serena after one match. “A terrible day for sport. He's one of the great, great champions.” Gauff lost in the fourth round at the U.S. Open last year and beat defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka here before losing in the fourth round at Melbourne Park to fellow American Sofia Kenin. She was still in contention in the doubles with another U.S. teeanger, Caty McNally on Monday. Gauff and McNally both wrote inscriptions on their tennis shoes for their match. Wimbledon champion Halep woke up to the news. “It's a huge loss for the world, for the sport ... for the family,' she said. Other players were affected. “It was really tough this morning. You know, is the first thing, you know, when I woke up, bunch of messages. Definitely when I found out that, I was really, really sad, because it was someone that for sure I was looking up growing up and someone very special,' 10th-seeded Gael Monfils said after his loss to Dominic Thiem. “To be honest with you, really devastated by that, because it means quite a lot for me. All my thoughts and prayers for his family.' ___ More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The most compelling drama in the NFL this season unfolded on the field, not off it. And any thought that the league was in jeopardy of losing its spot as America's favorite sport has been set on the back burner, which is mostly where the domestic abuse cases, national anthem controversies and even the concerns about player safety resided for the bulk of the season. To be sure, 2019 was far from perfect. Antonio Brown, a handful of overmatched officials and even a cameo appearance by Colin Kaepernick kept a spotlight on the warts this behemoth of a league will always carry. And certainly the Super Bowl will offer an opportunity to discuss Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill's history with domestic violence and the NFL's response to it. But for the better part of the season, the stickiest topics have included the quarterback-slash-pitchman, Baker Mayfield, and his overrated Cleveland Browns, the underachieving Cowboys, and the possible end of the Patriots' dynasty, to say nothing of a legion of rising young stars who were scattered throughout the league. It is led by Patrick Mahomes, the 24-year-old quarterback who brought the Chiefs to the Super Bowl to face the 49ers, the team trying to complete the NFL's version of a fairy tale by going from 4-12 to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in the span of a year. America's ever-expanding gambling landscape, the continued strength of fantasy football, the league's steady growth in Britain and other countries, along with a fair share of good games placed in the correct time slots and made available on a growing number of platforms also played roles in keeping eyeballs focused on the games. It all helps explain the league's back-to-back 5% TV ratings increases — two straight years with an uptick after a two-year stretch (2016-17) during which the NFL's status as the king of American sports took a hit, due in part to President Donald Trump's withering criticism and, more broadly, to the league's problematic handling of a myriad of problems that came fast and furious. The league accounted for 47 of the 50 most-watched shows on TV last year. “The NFL is in a better space leading up to the ... Super Bowl, than they have been in a few years,” says Bettina Cornwell, the academic director at University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. “Less limelight can be a good thing.” While staying out of the constant crisis-management loop, the league took advantage of trends that have been evolving for a decade or more. The NFL's embrace of fantasy football at the beginning of the 2000s — replete with in-stadium Wifi advances, stat-heavy tickers and updates that permeate the telecasts and both league and team endorsements with fantasy websites — set a template that, in turn, positioned the league to take advantage of the more recent expansion of legalized gambling. Long the most reluctant (and hypocritical) of the American pro leagues when it came to acknowledging the reality that gambling is a key driver of fan interest, the NFL signed a marketing deal with Caesars Entertainment at the start of 2019. A handful of teams have inked their own casino deals, as well. Next season, the Raiders are moving into a $1.8 billion stadium in Las Vegas — a city NFL officials worked hard to keep at arm's length for decades. “They were probably the last one at the table, but they took the most in from what other leagues are doing,” marketing expert Joe Favorito said. “They're doing it with fan engagement on mobile phones, games that give fans ability to win money or prizes, games where it's as easy as trying to predict what's going to happen on the next play.” This season also marked the beginning of a changing of the guard, of sorts, among the star set. Mahomes dethroned Patriots QB Tom Brady as the league leader in jersey sales, according to the NFLPA. Seven of the top 12 on the jersey list, including Mayfield, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Giants running back Saquon Barkley, were 26 or younger. Only four of the top 10 were quarterbacks — a lower-than-usual number that could be a subtle signal of a generational shift in the fan base. With one year left before the end of the current collective-bargaining agreement, there appears to be far less friction between the league and its union than last time they reached this point, in 2010. And if the tacit acceptance of gambling felt like a seismic shift, the next contract could bring another: Last year, the league and union announced the formation of a committee to study and assess alternatives to painkillers — a signal that a long-sacrosanct ban on marijuana could soon be relaxed. All of which bodes well for the league as it approaches the end of its current TV contract. The $1.9 billion-a-year deal with ESPN for Monday Night Football expires after the 2021 season, and the approaching deadline brings with it the possibility that the league might want to open up bidding on all its contracts for a full reset. No surprise, then, that among the thorniest issues in the new CBA will be the NFL's desire to add a 17th regular-season game and the players' hard stance against it because of the health concerns it presents. “Questions about the next round of (TV) negotiations have already become an overhang for many of our media companies, as investors debate which package will end up where and at what cost,” the analysts at the media research group MoffettNathanson wrote in a September newsletter. During the season, the NFL accounts for 25 percent of ESPN's and CBS' aggregate gross ratings points and 24 percent of NBC's, the analysts wrote — a sign of the outsize impact the NFL has on an ever-splintering TV landscape. All the attention-shifting choices out there for U.S. sports fans only increase pressure on the NFL to keep its house in shape — and to be sure, there are still plenty of festering issues that could derail it. — This year's officiating was widely regarded as below-par, in large part hampered by the league's new pass interference rule that allows calls and non-calls to be reviewed; it created confusion across the board and didn't necessarily solve any big-picture problems. — The NFL is still grappling with how to make its game safer in the wake of an epidemic of head injuries that has forced rules changes and is chipping away at the sport's grass roots in key areas. — The league continues to struggle in how it vets and disciplines its players, as illustrated by the ongoing cases involving Brown (cut by the Patriots after being accused of rape) and Hill (not disciplined by the league after authorities declined to charge him with domestic abuse). — Kaepernick, whose hastily scheduled and relocated “workout” in November turned into a circus that brought everyone's intentions into question, has not disappeared. Nor has the cause he promoted — a greater spotlight on social justice and police violence against African-Americans. — Next season will also take place during an election year. It was the Trump vs. Hillary Clinton race, along with Trump's disdain for the league in the wake of the national-anthem controversy fueled by Kaepernick, that got some (deserved) credit for some of the NFL's diminished popularity in 2016 and 2017. “A fun Super Bowl matchup, betting and international games may drive interest and opportunity,” Cornwell said, “but big issues continue to percolate.”
  • The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others that crashed into a rugged hillside outside Los Angeles was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers. The helicopter plunged into a steep hillside at about 9:45 a.m. Sunday with an impact that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed all aboard. The accident unleashed an outpouring of grief from admirers around the world who mourned the sudden loss of the all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Thousands of fans, many wearing Bryant jerseys and chanting his name, gathered outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, home of the Lakers and site of Sunday's Grammy Awards where Bryant was honored. The 41-year-old Bryant, who perished with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was one of the game’s most popular players and the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers. The cause of the crash was unknown, but conditions at the time were such that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff's department grounded their helicopters. The Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, said the rugged terrain complicated efforts to recover the remains. He estimated it would take at least a couple of days to complete that task before identifications can be made. Bryant’s helicopter left Santa Ana in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, shortly after 9 a.m. and circled for a time just east of Interstate 5, near Glendale. Air traffic controllers noted poor visibility around Burbank, just to the north, and Van Nuys, to the northwest. After holding up the helicopter for other aircraft, they cleared the Sikorsky S-76 to proceed north along Interstate 5 through Burbank before turning west to follow U.S Route 101, the Ventura Highway. Shortly after 9:40 a.m., the helicopter turned again, toward the southeast, and climbed to more than 2000 feet (609 meters). It then descended and crashed into the hillside at about 1400 feet (426 meters), according to data from Flightradar24. When it struck the ground, the helicopter was flying at about 160 knots (184 mph) and descending at a rate of more than 4000 feet per minute, the data showed. The chopper went down in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks was holding a basketball tournament on Sunday. Federal transportation safety investigators were on their way to the scene. Among other things, they will look at the pilot's history, the chopper's maintenance records and the records of its owner and operator, said NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy at a news conference. Kurt Deetz, a pilot who used to fly Bryant in the chopper, said the crash was more likely caused by bad weather than engine or mechanical issues. “The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn’t happen,” he told the Los Angeles Times. Justin Green, an aviation attorney in New York who flew helicopters in the Marine Corps, said pilots can become disoriented in low visibility, losing track of which direction is up. Green said a pilot flying an S-76 would be instrument-rated, meaning that person could fly the helicopter without relying on visual cues from outside. The National Transportation Safety Board typically issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned. A ruling on the cause can take a year or more. Colin Storm was in his living room in Calabasas when he heard what sounded to him like a low-flying airplane or helicopter. 'It was very foggy so we couldn’t see anything,” he said. “But then we heard some sputtering and then a boom.” The fog cleared a bit, and Storm could see smoke rising from the hillside in front of his home. Firefighters hiked in with medical equipment and hoses, and medical personnel rappelled to the site from a helicopter, but found no survivors, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. News of the charismatic superstar's death rocketed around the sports and entertainment worlds, with many taking to Twitter to register their shock, disbelief and anguish. “Words can't describe the pain I am feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me,' retired NBA great Michael Jordan said. “We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.' Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific shot-maker with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams. He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. His Lakers tenure was marred by scandal when in 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He said the two had consensual sex, and prosecutors later dropped the felony sexual assault charge at the request of the accuser. The woman later filed a civil suit against Bryant that was settled out of court. Bryant went on to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010, and retired in 2016. Among those killed in the crash were John Altobelli, 56, longtime head coach of Southern California's Orange Coast College baseball team; his wife, Keri; and daughter, Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Bryant's daughter, said Altobelli's brother, Tony, who is the sports information director at the school. Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley tweeted that the dead also included Christina Mauser, a girls basketball coach at a nearby private elementary school. Her husband, Matt Mauser, founded the Tijuana Dogs, a popular Orange County band. In a Facebook post he said: “My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.” ___ Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles, David Koenig in Dallas, Tim Reynolds in Miami and Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania contributed to this report.
  • Rafael Nadal left the muttering and the preening, the underarm serving and the 'tweening, to his younger, flashier opponent, Nick Kyrgios. Surely, Nadal was content to collect the win in the latest installment of their rivalry. The No. 1-ranked Nadal kept his thoughts to himself and limited his shot-making to the more traditional variety in an entertaining 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) victory over home-crowd favorite Kyrgios on Monday to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals and get closer to a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title. These two guys don't like each other. But Nadal had nothing but nice things to say after improving his head-to-head record to 5-3 against Kyrgios. “When he wants to play, when he is focused on what he's doing, I think he's a very important player for our sport,' Nadal said, “because he has a big talent and is one of these players that can be very, very interesting for the crowd.” While Kyrgios was up to some of his usual trick shots and antics, what he never did was waver in his effort, something folks often accuse him of. “Today,” Nadal said, “I think he played very serious, tried all the time his best.” It certainly meant a lot to Kyrgios, who said: “I'm shattered to have lost tonight. These are the matches that I want to win the most.” Here's how the elevated stakes and tension affected both men: At 5-all in the pivotal third-set tiebreaker, Kyrgios double-faulted. That offered up a gift-wrapped set point. But Nadal failed to take advantage because he double-faulted right back. Still, two points later, the 23rd-seeded Kyrgios put a forehand into the net, and the set was Nadal's. Not long after, Kyrgios double-faulted again to get broken at love. That put Nadal ahead 2-1 in the fourth, seemingly in charge. “Against Nick,” Nadal would say afterward, “you are never (in) control.” Sure enough, Nadal faltered while serving for the win at 5-4, double-faulting to create a pair of break points, the second of which Kyrgios converted with a jumping forehand and celebrated by throwing his head back and screaming. Spectators rose and roared and waved their Australian flags in support of the 24-year-old from Canberra. “A scary game,” Nadal called it, acknowledging he was hampered by nerves. But he regrouped and pulled the win out in the closing tiebreaker, which ended with Kyrgios putting a forehand into the net. Sure, the cool, breezy conditions played to Nadal's advantage and dulled Kyrgios' power-based style. But there also was this: Nadal finished with more than twice as many winners as unforced errors, 64-27. “I'd have to win a point three times to win a point,” Kyrgios said. Kyrgios delivered 25 aces and some memorable moments -- including walking out on court and warming up for the match in a No. 8 Los Angeles Lakers jersey to honor Kobe Bryant, the five-time NBA champion and 18-time All-Star who died in a helicopter crash Sunday at age 41. Kyrgios switched to a No. 24 Bryant shirt for his post-match news conference and described himself as emotional at the news. A video tribute to Bryant was played on the Rod Laver Arena scoreboards before Monday's match. On Wednesday, the 33-year-old Nadal's 41st career Grand Slam quarterfinal will be against No. 5 Dominic Thiem in a rematch of the past two French Open finals, both won by Nadal. The other men's quarterfinal on the top half of the bracket is No. 7 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 15 Stan Wawrinka. Nadal vs. Kyrgios was fascinating to watch, in part because of the quality of the play and in part because of the subplot of their negative feelings toward each other. “When I criticized him in the past,' Nadal said, 'it's because I thought he did a couple of things that are not right and not the right image for our sport and for the kids.” They traded verbal barbs through the media last year after Kyrgios beat Nadal at a tournament in Mexico (which is why a spectator kept yelling 'Acapulco!' in the stadium Monday). When they met again at Wimbledon in July — with, coincidentally, the exact same scoreline as Monday — Kyrgios ripped a shot right at Nadal’s midsection, then refused to apologize. Kyrgios came into this one following a five-set win that lasted nearly 4½ hours, sapping energy and emotion, and it appeared to hurt him in the early going. Nadal, meanwhile, looked like he was just back from vacation -- some fishing, some golf, some beach time -- and fresh as can be. That spin-filled forehand of his was at its uppercutting best: Nadal accumulated eight forehand winners before Kyrgios managed to produce one. The entire tenor shifted in the second set, which was preceded by a bit of confusion for Nadal. He left two rackets at his sideline seat while he headed to the bathroom after the opening set, telling a ballkid he wanted one re-strung. When Nadal returned, he realized the wrong one had been removed. The show must go on, though, and Nadal generated three break points in the first game of the second set. Kyrgios erased the first with a 132 mph ace. The second vanished amid some of his typical outrageousness: Kyrgios chased down a lob and, back to the net, flicked the ball through his legs to prolong a point that ended when he bashed a forehand that forced an error. He took care of the third in a more traditional manner. And then, 63 minutes in, Kyrgios earned his first break opportunity and used it for a 3-1 lead with a squash forehand passing shot that Nadal let float by. The ball landed on the back of the baseline and Kyrgios marked the occasion with a leap and a fist in the air. Soon enough, it was a set apiece, and Kyrgios was strutting to the sideline with a towel dangling from his teeth. Truthfully, Kyrgios should be 'Mic'd Up' every time he plays, and his patter was strong, whether he was complimenting Nadal with 'Too good!' or admonishing his entourage to 'Say something!' or sarcastically criticizing himself by shouting 'Well done!' after a bad backhand or smacking himself in the head with his racket. Later he received a warning for destroying a racket by spiking it after flubbing a shot in the third-set tiebreaker. The way the fourth set ended probably angered Kyrgios, too, but he quickly packed up his things and left. Comparing this loss with his last one to Nadal, Kyrgios said: “I felt a lot closer this time.” ___ More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Every time Kobe Bryant came to Madison Square Garden, it was an event. From the 1998 All-Star Game, his first one, to the night of Feb. 2, 2009, when he broke the arena's scoring record, people just wanted to be in the building. Not Sunday. Kyrie Irving couldn't bring himself to play after his friend's death. The ones who took the floor did so with the knowledge that Bryant would have had one expectation. “Understand that he’d want you to go out there and play — hard,' Knicks veteran Taj Gibson said. Julius Randle, who began his career as Bryant's teammate, had 22 points and 15 rebounds to lead New York to a 110-97 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets were already at the arena when they learned that Bryant and his daughter were among those who had died in a helicopter crash. Irving left after warming up, and at least some people on both sides hoped the game wouldn't be played. “It was an emotional locker room. It was a quiet locker room. No one spoke for whatever, three hours before we tipped off,' Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “No one really spoke. Sometimes there are no words and I didn’t have any words to console them.' Randle played with the Lakers during Bryant's final two seasons. In his first season with the Knicks, he starred at Madison Square Garden on a night the arena was lit up in the colors of his old team. He left without speaking to reporters. Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie did talk, tearing up while doing so. “I was born in ’93. He was drafted in ’96. Grew up in South Central Los Angeles. He was everything to my generation,' Dinwiddie said. “There’s a whole generation of kids, L.A. kids. That was our childhood.' Madison Square Garden was the site of some of Bryant's biggest highlights and his picture was on the marquis outside. Inside, there was little of the energy that MSG contained whenever Bryant played here, save for a “Kobe! Kobe!” chant after a moment of silence before the game. “Just the air was out of the whole arena,' Gibson said. Marcus Morris added 21 points to help the Knicks earn a split of the New York season series. He is from the Philadelphia area, same as Bryant. “Somebody said to me earlier, Superman’s not supposed to die,' Morris said, “and to us he was Superman.' Dinwiddie, back in the starting lineup with Irving out, scored 23 points for the Nets. Irving was at the arena and warming up before leaving after learning the news about Bryant. The Nets said he was not with the team for personal reasons. “Obviously, our leader Ky wasn’t able to play. Our thoughts go out to him as well as to the families, the Bryant family as well as the other families on the helicopter, parents, the pilots,' Nets guard Garrett Temple said. “That was Spencer’s idol. When I first heard about it, those was the first two guys on the team I thought about most. Especially with us, we saw him just last month, him and his daughter.' Bryant set the scoring record at the current building with 61 points. Carmelo Anthony later bettered it by a point, but Bryant still shares the opponent record with James Harden. Irving scored 45 points Saturday in Detroit, helping the Nets to an overtime victory that snapped their five-game losing streak. TIP-INS Nets: Irving's absence means he won't play at MSG this season after choosing the Nets over the Knicks in free agency. He was injured during the first meeting at the arena. ... Taurean Prince scored 14 points. Knicks: The Knicks remained without rookie RJ Barrett, who will be out at least another week with a sprained right ankle. ... Mitchell Robinson scored 12 points. REMEMBERING A RECORD Atkinson was in the arena for Bryant's 61-point performance, as a Knicks assistant. “Incredible performance and iconic, right?' Atkinson said. SHOOTING STATS The Knicks shot 53.3% and the Nets 42%, a huge improvement over the last meeting in December. The Nets shot 26.9% that night, lowest in the NBA this season, and their eight 2-point field goals were the lowest in an NBA game since the Lakers and Pistons each made four in a Nov. 22, 1950, game that ended 19-18. UP NEXT Nets: Host Detroit on Wednesday night. Knicks: Visit Charlotte on Tuesday night.
  • From the red carpet to the main stage, sadness loomed over music’s biggest night Sunday at the arena in downtown Los Angeles where Kobe Bryant played for 20 years for the city's NBA team. Bryant's death in a helicopter crash earlier in the day was acknowledged in the opening minutes of the Grammys broadcast. Before her performance, Lizzo said, “This is for Kobe.” She went on to perform “Truth Hurts” and “Cuz I Love You.” Host Alicia Keys said she was feeling “crazy sad” about Bryant. She was joined on stage with Boyz II Men, who collectively sang “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” “The whole wide world lost a hero,” the singer said in front of the audience. “We are standing her literally heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.” Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others were killed in the crash on a steep hillside in dense morning fog in Southern California. He was 41 and had retired from the Lakers in 2016. Some shed tears for Bryant on the red carpet. Others were almost speechless ahead of the 62nd annual awards show. Music artists including Billy Ray Cyrus, Rick Ross and Kirk Franklin paid tribute to Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star and five-time champion. Debbie Allen, who is married to former Laker Norm Nixon, was seen crying. DJ Khaled, who will take part in a tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle, said the tribute will also pay homage to Bryant and his daughter. “The news is devastating,” said Khaled, who is expected take the stage with John Legend, Meek Mill and Kirk Franklin. “We will be paying homage to not only Nipsey but also Kobe and Gianna. It’s hard for me to talk a right.” Ross remembered a brief conversation he had with Bryant that involved him admiring the NBA star’s craft. The rapper said the game would miss him. “It's just a huge loss to the game,” Ross said on the red carpet. “He was a great example on a lot of different stages.” Singer Charlie Wilson called Bryant a “beautiful soul” and “one of the greatest who played the game.” Hit-Boy, who won a Grammy with Hussle and Roddy Ricch for best rap performance for “Racks in the Middle,” said he was not going to attend the awards when he learned about Bryant’s death. But the producer said he decided to stick it out in deference to several relatives who were joining him. “I was two seconds away from just canceling everything,” Hit-Boy said. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who knew Bryant personally, said he felt horrible but also learned a lesson. “I hope everyone. ... gives their loved ones a hug and a kiss,” Kraft said. “Don’t take anything for granted. We should pinch ourselves and make sure we remember those we care most about.' Outside Staples Center, fans wearing Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys flocked to the arena to show their respect for the Laker legend. A few hundred people gathered at L.A. Live in front of a mega screen with a smiling Bryant that read, “In Loving Memory of KOBE BRYANT 1978-2020” Smokey Robinson choked up on camera as he spoke of Bryant, whom he called a friend. “As a dad myself, to think that his daughter was there with him and there was nothing he could do for her,” he said. “My god.” ____ AP Entertainment Writers Leanne Italie and Marcela Isaza contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31
  • Tiger Woods has heard just about everything from playing before the biggest crowds in golf, and he tends to ignore it. Most puzzling was what he kept hearing along the back nine Sunday at Torrey Pines. “Do it for Mamba.” Only after Woods finished his final round of 2-under 70 to tie for ninth in the Farmers Insurance Open did he realize what it meant. His caddie, Joe LaCava, told him as they walked to the scoring room that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. Woods could be heard replying, “Excuse me?” Such was the shock for Woods that he made a rare detour from his two media stops to sign autographs, presumably to collect his thoughts. Woods typically signs after he is done with his interviews. “One of the most shocking, tragic days that I've ever been a part of,” Woods said. Woods and Bryant arrived at roughly the same time in 1996. Woods won the first of his 82 titles on the PGA Tour on Oct. 6, 1996, at the Las Vegas Invitational. Bryant made his first appearance for the Lakers the following month. Woods said they spent time together when he still had a home in Newport Beach, but they rarely connected after Woods moved to Florida. “We really connected on more the mental side of it ... how much it takes to be prepared,” Woods said. “For me, I don't have to react like he does in my sport, we can take our time. But you've still got to pay attention to the details and that's what he did better than probably any other player in NBA history.. “That's where he and I really connected because we're very similar,” Woods said. “He came in the league and I turned pro right around the same time and we had our 20-year run together. It's shocking.” Most other players were not aware of the tragedy about two hours to the north during the round, including Rory McIlroy, a sports junkie who said he grew up idolizing Bryant. McIlroy, from Northern Ireland, said the 2000 NBA Finals is what led him to follow basketball. “He was a pure master of what he did,” McIlroy said. “That's just so sad.” For Woods, it was personal. He was a Lakers fan for as long as he can remember. Woods once told of how his late father would tell him that Magic Johnson would add a new shot to his repertoire every year. And along came Bryant, roughly the same age, and someone with whom he spent time. “It's unbelievable, the reality that he's no longer here,' Woods said. Bryant meant so much to Tony Finau that the golfer's manager drove from Los Angeles to San Diego to tell him after the round. Finau wore golf shoes that were purple-and-gold in the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs opener on Aug. 24, 2017, in honor of “Mamba Day” — 8/24 on the calendar, the two jersey numbers worn by Bryant. Finau said he had some of the feelings he experienced from his mother dying in a car accident in 2011. “The love of a mother is one that I think you can't replace, but to have some of those feelings come back when I heard the news makes me quite sad. I'll be mourning for him,” Finau said. “I think the the way to live a life that respects Kobe and that he would respect is to have the Mamba mentality. Maybe that's something that I need, work even harder at your craft and have more love for your craft and maybe that's something that we all need.”